Every report and every session at COP24 has emphasized that we need to do more – faster – sooner – NOW. There is also a real emphasis on the importance of long term planning – of looking to at least 2050. Long term planning matters in climate change policy for three primary reasons.
First, a long-term strategy can inform short-term actions. For example, if a developing country understands and incorporates into its strategy electrification for its rural residents through renewables, then it can effectively bypass investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. Developing countries still need to grow to meet the needs of their residents – but the paradigm shift must move from expanding to grow to intensifying to grow. Long-term investments in energy and water infrastructure must be done with this long-term strategy. But the developed world needs to assist the developing world in identifying what the future looks like so they can leap frog.
Second, a long-term strategy can help bring people together around a common vision because it goes beyond the immediate economic consequence to sectors or individuals. There are tradeoffs, people and industries that are impacted by the transition we must make. The more time we have, the easier it is to forge consensus about how we get there and do so justly and equitably. People may disagree on tomorrow – but it is easier to agree in the long term. Long-term visions can also provide certainty for the private sector accelerating investment.
Third, building off the previous two, is the ability to create the more ambitious trajectory we need to save our planet. To be ambitious we must build the political support from the ground up. To be ambitious we must provide enough certainty to motivate investors to invest in the development of new technology and the projects that will build our future. To be ambitious we must not only understand where we need to go, but develop the strategies on how to get there.
For more information on long-term strategy, go to the World Resources Institute website for a collection of expert perspectives, case studies, and working papers.